To Share or Not to Share

Kids Sharing | Who Gets to Decide When to Share

At a glance: It’s easy to say sharing is an important social skill (especially in siblings), it’s often paired with kindness. What if we step back to look at kids sharing from a different side? What we require from our kids just might change.

Picture this.

You have just finished up half an hour of shopping. Your cart is full of carefully picked items, you are about to start the second half of your list when a woman walks up to you.

She smiles politely and says “You’ve had that long enough… it’s my turn now.” As she strolls away with your cart another woman pats you on the shoulder. “You are so good at sharing.”

As adults, we sometimes forget how ridiculous the idea of sharing can be.

It's easy to say sharing is an important social skill, it's often paired with kindness. What if we look at kids sharing from a different side? Kids are ALWAYS expected to share without question.

After all, kids who share are seen as kind.

When we step back and think about it from an adult’s perspective, it’s easier to see that sharing is not always a mark of kindness.

In some cases, we might even guide our kids not to share.

How to Encourage Kids to Share

The following steps will introduce kids to sharing and get them in the habit of sharing because they want to share.

Teach communication and compromise. Being able to say what you want and work together to find a way for both people to be happy is far better than sharing for the sake of sharing.

Use this conflict resolution technique to walk the kids through a situation where two (or more) kids want the same thing.

Model sharing out of love.  Kids are always watching what we do more than listening to what we say.

Share with your kids or other adults. Do it from a loving place, not because you are being forced. Tell the kids how that sharing made you feel.

“I love mushrooms, especially when they are sauteed. I’m so happy to share what I have left with you because I know you love them just as much!”

Make a Not for Sharing rule. There are some things that kids just flat out don’t want to share. You might understand their reasoning… or you might not.

That is okay.

When you have a play-date scheduled, spend some time preparing.

Look around the room with your little one and decide which things should be put up for the play date.

“I know you have a special love for this car, would you like to put it up while your friends are here? Or maybe you would be excited to see how John uses it!”

Talk about sharing in general. Open a conversation about how sharing feels and what sharing means at a time when your little one isn’t in a position to share. This will separate the ideas of sharing from the feeling of sharing in the moment.

“Did you see that boy share the shovel he was using? I wonder how the girl felt that he was willing to share. I wonder how it felt to be the one sharing!”

Do you have a special trick to inspire sharing? Tell us about it in the comments. 

For more Sibling Solutions:



  1. I know sharing is expected of children. But I remember reading somewhere when Henry was a baby that sharing isn’t truly grasped until age 7 or even 8. Until then, I’ve decided to treat it as a learning opportunity every time. To model sharing like you described as well as empathizing with and showing how nice it feels. He has great moments of sharing and also some screaming ones. I try to take it in stride and remember that he’s too young to really understand yet.

  2. Pingback: Sibling Love
  3. Would love to see the webinar, but I am not available then; will it be possible to view it later? Thank you! 🙂

  4. Yes, thank you for sharing. 🙂
    I take issue with people who think sharing means having to hand something over as soon as someone asks for it. That’s not sharing. It should be thought of as taking turns.

  5. As a parent and childcare provider, my best sharing/taking turns technique came from my youngest child’s preschool. When one child has a toy that another child wants, empathize with his desire (I know you really want to play with that now…) and, if needed, remind him that it is never ok to take/grab a toy from another child. Then turn to the child with the toy and say ‘I know you are playing with that right now but when you are done with it can you please give it to…? It’s AMAZING. Once the choice of how and when is left in their hands, even very young children can be very empathetic and often offer a turn within seconds. And even if they do still play with it, young children’s attention spans are short- so without pressure to do it at a time set by adults, I find the toy is usually turned over freely in less time than an enforced turn would have taken. As kids get older, they can do this on their own with practice.

    1. I love how this technique is validating the child’s feelings. I totally agree that allowing the children to have a choice and a say usually helps the problem go away quickly.
      Thanks so much for sharing Lori!

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